In the last three weeks, Nigeria has recorded at least five major cases of truck and tanker accidents, each recording a disturbing number of casualties. The most recent one that took place last weekend at the main gate of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko virtually set the social media on fire. At least 8 souls were sent to their early graves. Some accounts put the casualties at 15.
Almost all were students of the University. Mother of three siblings, all undergraduates of the University collapsed and died immediately when she was told of the death of her three children. Two of the children were said to be in their final year at the university.
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Adesomoju Samuel Tobi, a former Student Union President of the university was among the victims of the accident. The deceased body was discovered at the mortuary. Samuel was a 500 level law student.
The students responded like wounded lions. The entire town was turned upside down as they went on massive protest. Presently, the school authority has suspended all outstanding examinations pending when the students would be assuaged.
From events of the past few years, it seems the country has come to accept the problem of incessant truck and tanker accidents as one we should live with. Whenever it happens, the issue will get some focus in the heat of the moment. Road safety authorities will make some comments, relatives will weep and go home to bury their dead, other issues are subsequently swept under the carpet, the event fades and life continues. The next one will happen in another location a few weeks or days later, it will consume more casualties and the cycle is repeated.
Nothing is done fundamentally to change the situation. Regrettably these tragedies might continue to repeat itself until the country can address the underlining issues.
Incidentally, the Adekunle Ajasin University area has previously witnessed several truck accidents, majorly caused by trailers. A truck accident that took place in the area last year led to the death of a whopping 22 persons while 18 others were severely injured.
The last accident involved a truck transporting bags of Dangote cement. The truck experienced brake failure and crashed into three other stationary vehicles and all the four immediately went up in flames. The carnage and destructive impact was mind-blowing.
In 2020, Adekunle Ajasin University authorities began plans to curb the frequent occurrence of truck accidents in the community. The parties involved brainstormed on the best possible solutions to curb the recurring accidents. Oba Sunday Adeyeye, the Alale of Akungba suggested that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu should build an alternative major road through Akungba town to Simerin-Oka Akoko. It seems the proposal did not receive any positive response as nothing along that line happened.
Ondo is not the only state experiencing this ravaging time bomb. The problem cuts across the whole country. A fuel-laden tanker exploded last week in Ogun state which led to the burning of cars and one casualty. Another deadly one happened two weeks ago in Agbor, Delta State. The Kogi gas tanker explosion on September 23 2020 killed at least 28 people including school children and university students. Also, in October and December 2020, two fully-loaded fuel tanker, at different times, exploded on Otedola Bridge along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) revealed that an economic loss of N9.8 billion was recorded in 2018 due to the 196 traffic crashes that occurred during the year involving trucks. In 2016, the agency recorded 282 accidents involving tanker drivers and 240 in 2017. Auto crashes have been rated the third leading cause of overall deaths in the country. Based on the World Health Organization report, over 39,000 road accident deaths are recorded every year in the country.
On August 15, 2020, the Nigeria Transportation Commissioners Forum (NTCF) advised that there is a need to restrict heavy-duty vehicle movement during the day to cut down the rising accident cases in the country. They also expressed the importance of proper regulation to help avert further occurrence. Nothing has been done in this area
Most truck drivers have blamed the recurring incidents on brake failure. However, investigations have revealed that one of the major causes of truck incidents is the use of hard drugs and alcoholic drinks by truck drivers. This will inevitably lead to carelessness on the part of the super- charged driver. Investigations reveal that most drivers claim that alcohol and drugs serve as energy booster that keeps them awake on long journeys.
Recklessness on the part of the truck drivers has also contributed to the rise in the accident rate. It almost seems that they are not usually aware of other vehicles on the same road. They drive with some sense of superiority, almost as if they are untouchable. Trailers and tankers kill hundreds each year, yet there are hardly reports of any arrest of drivers and their owners, talk less of prosecution.
Many truck and tanker drivers are also ignorant of basic safety tips and traffic regulations. Many are very young with strong tendency to misbehave on wheel.
A large number of trucks in the country are not regularly maintained. Old and rickety trucks are always visible on the roads, most times overloaded. When there is a break down some will not put adequate signs to warn other road users.
Apart from the bad conditions of vehicles, some of them are not registered with the relevant agencies that can verify their road worthiness. Unlatched containers have increased, yet there is no law to check this rising negative development.
Another major cause of truck accidents is the bad road. Many highways and major roads in the country are in sorry states, even when trucks and tankers remain the major avenue the country transports goods. With the current improvement of the railways in the country, many commentators have expressed hope that movements of goods with road trucks and tankers would soon be replaced by rail transportation.
The nation cannot afford to remain passive while her citizens die needlessly from situations that can be checked. Truck and tanker accidents are time bombs that can explode without warning. The turbulence and protest by students at Akungba-Akoko is a foretaste of bigger conflagrations that can happen anywhere else in the country. It also underlines the urgent need for government to work out ways to end this continuous cycle of road accidents and deaths that is prevalent in the country.